Build self-respect, not self-esteem - Happy + Well : Happy + Well

Build self-respect, not self-esteem

Written by on July 14, 2015 in Learning, Young People with 1 Comment

index4Were you to ask a random selection of individuals whether young people with high self-esteem perform better academically than young people with low self-esteem, the majority would probably respond in the affirmative. But they’d be wrong. This boils down to a misunderstanding about the benefits of self-esteem which, among other things, has spawned the phenomenon of ‘helicopter’ or overprotective parenting. There’s now a lot of literature on how this has backfired by actually increasing kids’ anxiety and having a counter productive effect on their confidence levels.

Professor Toni Noble is a leading educator and educational psychologist with expertise in student wellbeing and positive school communities, who presented on the problem of excessive self-esteem at Young Minds 2013, including what can be done about it. Noble will be back again to present at our Mind & Its Potential conference in October.

Noble defines self-esteem as “how favourably a person regards himself or herself. It is perception (and evaluation), not reality.” She then roll calls a number of prominent psychologists whose work has helped explode the self-esteem myth by demonstrating self-esteem’s limited and often even harmful effects.

They include Professor Roy Baumeister and Professor Jean Twenge, both presenters at Happiness & Its Causes 2014, whose research has focussed on the rise in narcissism (which is characterised by inflated self esteem) along with a concomitant decline in empathy; and past conference presenter, Dr Martin Seligman who notes:

“Armies of  … teachers and parents are straining to bolster children’s self esteem. That sounds innocuous enough, but the way they do it often erodes children’s sense of worth. By emphasising how a child feels, at the expense of what a child does – mastery, persistence, overcoming frustration and boredom and meeting a challenge – parents and teachers are making children more vulnerable to depression.”

Fortunately, there is an antidote, says Noble, and that is we need to switch our focus from self-esteem to self-respect. She explains the latter can be understood in terms of six factors: self-knowledge, self-management, self-confidence, self-trust, self-protection and respect for others. All are qualities that parents and educators can help children learn and develop. “So the bottom line is to educate for self-respect not self-esteem. We can’t ever have too much self-respect but we can certainly have too much self esteem.”


Professor Toni Noble will be presenting a session at Mind & Its Potential 2015. For more information and to register, please click here.

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  1. nurturecards says:

    Professor Tony Noble,
    Thankyou for the inspiring and important work you do.
    I have a wonderful product Nurture Cards ~ affirmation cards for children.
    A box of 40 affirmation cards designed for children.

    Nurture Cards are being used in some classrooms of Pre-schools, Primary and even a High School in Blacktown.
    My dream has been to have Nurture Cards used in all classrooms ages 4-12yr.
    Helping children from a young age create Self-respect, self-belief, and a positive mind.
    Nurturing the Mental health of young children.

    Having Self-respect and confidence, WILL effect your whole life, in so many ways.
    It would be fantastic to get in touch.
    With gratitude
    Nurture Cards

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